LEXINGTON — Lexington quarterback Joe Caudill and wide receiver Brayden Fogle won some downfield battles on Friday night.
A ferocious Mansfield Senior defense won the war, 37-10.
The Tygers shut off the Minutemen running game (37 yards on 30 carries) and sacked Caudill five times in taking over sole possession of first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.
“I thought our defense did an exceptional job,” said Mansfield Senior coach Chioke Bradley, now 96-52 in his 14th season at the helm of his alma mater. “We came out and played tough football, winning at the line of scrimmage up front.
“(Lexington) made some plays down the field, some one-on-one plays. Fogle (199 yards on eight catches and one TD) is an exceptional young and up-and-coming talent. He did a great job of playing the football in the air,” Bradley said.
Maurice Bradley II led the Tygers’ defense with 14 tackles (six solo), one QB sack and a blocked punt.
Roaring start gives Tygers momentum
Lexington (3-3, 2-1) came into the contest on a three-game winning streak, averaging almost 34 points per game in beating Clear Fork, Mount Vernon and Wooster.
The Tygers (4-2, 3-0) stopped that momentum cold, taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter behind 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior quarterback Duke Reese.
Reese scored on runs of 30 and 13 yards before three minutes were off the first-quarter clock. When senior running back Jamir Petty added a 28-yard TD run with 3:46 left in the period, the Tygers had a 21-0 lead.
Reese finished with 83 yards and two TDs on 10 runs. He completed 9-of-27 passes for 95 yards and two more scores in the second half.
The early fireworks came without much involvement from record-setting senior wide receiver Amarr Davis, who was limited to 10 yards on two catches.
“(Stopping Davis) was a big part of our gameplan,” second-year Lexington coach Andrew Saris said. “But obviously (Mansfield Senior) has enough (other) weapons to be scary.
“I thought Duke Reese had a great game. He’s slippery. We were able to hit him at times, but he was able to get out of those tackles at times, as well,” Saris said.
It’s the first time Mansfield Senior has been alone atop the OCC football standings since 2013 when the Tygers posted a perfect 7-0 league record.
It’s Mansfield Senior’s sixth straight win over Lexington. The Tygers have outscored the Minutemen 222-51 over that span, including shutouts in 2019 and 2022.
Bradley looking for answers on offense
As happy as he was with his defense, Bradley will be watching film and looking for answers for an offense that was actually outgained by the Minutemen, 297-260, in total yards.
Winning the turnover battle (3-0) and benefitting from a few Lexington special teams mistakes, the veteran coach knows the Tygers’ offense left meat on the bone Friday night.
After the fast start, Mansfield Senior managed just two TDs in the final 39 minutes.
The Tygers rushed for165 yards on 28 carries and Reese completed just 33 percent of his passes against a Lexington defense designed to take away Davis, who remains one TD catch away from tying the school record of 20 in his career. He already owns records for most receptions and most yards in the storied history of the program.
“We gained a lot of extra possessions with our special teams and our defense with turnovers and turnover on downs,” Bradley said. “We should have scored way more points than than what we did. We got a lot of talent on that side of the ball.
“We got some guys that’s got to look themselves in the mirror and we got to get that figured out,” he said. “(Lexington defensive coordinator) Jamie Masi did a really good job of doubling- and tripling-teaming (Davis).
“We tried to do what we could to get him the ball under those type of circumstances. We might’ve even been forcing it a little bit. At one point (early), we were averaging nine yards a carry offensively. That’s a testament to our offensive line.
“That’s just something that we have got to continue to lean on as we move forward,” Bradley said.
‘These are are the kinds of wins we’re gonna have to get’
In 2022, during his first year as coach, Saris saw Mansfield Senior overwhelm his Minutemen, 41-0.
He wasn’t claiming any kind of moral victories Friday night despite improved play that included the sophomore Caudill completing 15-of-29 passes for 260 yards and a 65-yard TD pass to fellow sophomore Fogle.
“We have high expectations of ourselves, as we should. I have high expectations of the players. Ultimately, it’s disappointing anytime you lose. We’re going to find things that we’re highly disappointed with as a team and we’re going to find things that we’re happy with.
“But ultimately, if we want to continue to grow our program, these are the kinds of wins that we’re gonna have to get,” said Saris, whose team was without sophomore transfer Seven Allen for reasons the coach said were “completely out of Seven’s control.”
Allen caught four passes for 89 yards and a score last week and has been one of the best kick returners in the league.
Saris credited Mansfield Senior’s defense, which he labeled “extremely aggressive” in stopping a running game that had been clicking the last few weeks.
“They even make it hard to throw the ball because they come at you. That’s something we’re got to look at. Are there things that we can adjust? Things that we can do differently if we continue to see pressure in an aggressive defensive mindset?” Saris said.
Up next for both teams
Mansfield Senior hosts Ashland (4-2, 2-1) next Friday. The Arrows moved into a tie for second in the OCC in week six with a 35-7 home win against Madison, their second-straight victory.
Lexington travels to West Holmes (4-2, 2-1) to battle a Knights team whose only OCC loss was at Mansfield Senior (38-28) in Week Four. West Holmes knocked off Wooster, 43-40, on Friday night.
Mansfield Senior — Duke Reese 30-yard run (PAT Quinten DeBolt kick), 7-0
Mansfield Senior — Reese 13-yard run (PAT DeBolt kick), 14-0
Mansfield Senior — Jamir Petty 28-yard run (PAT DeBolt kick), 21-0
Lexington — Brayden Fogle 65-yard pass from Joe Caudill (PAT Will Perkins kick), 21-7
Lexington — Perkins 29-yard field goal, 21-10
Mansfield Senior — Nate Dismuke 25-yard pass from Reese (PAT DeBolt kick), 28-10
Mansfield Senior — Safety by tackling Caudill in endzone, 30-10
Mansfield Senior — Ja’ontay O’Bryant 14-yard pass from Reese (PAT Debolt kick), 38-10